I past him on the street but before I did so, I smelled him.
I smelled urine and the staunch aroma of ammonia made me turn my head away.
I will never forget turning my head away.
I walked up the street a block, maybe two, and I turned around. Conviction consuming my heart. I faced my friends who were simply excited to be in the city for the first time and told them I had to go back. I had to stand in front of this man I turned my face from and extend my hand and offer to buy him food. So I did. I went back and breathed in deep. I smiled and asked his name and David and I walked to McDonald’s.
Today, years later from my encounter with David, I hear the story in Luke. I’ve read it a hundreds times, but today my heart heard something in the story I haven’t heard before. It reminded me of my encounter of David and his urine soaked jeans. It reminded me of the smell that lingered in him and then consequently, on me. It reminded me how I turned my head away. It reminded me of a lot.
Luke 7:36-39 says, “Now one of the Pharisees was requesting Him to dine with him, and He entered the Pharisee’s house and reclined at the table. And there was a woman in the city who was a sinner; and when she learned that He was reclining at the table in the Pharisee’s house, she brought an alabaster vial of perfume, and standing behind Him at His feet, weeping, she began to wet His feet with her tears, and kept wiping them with the hair of her head, and kissing His feet and anointing them with the perfume. Now when the Pharisee who had invited Him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet He would know who and what sort of person this woman is who is touching Him, that she is a sinner.”
The women who washed Jesus’s feet with her tears and her hair wasn’t afraid to get her hands dirty. She wasn’t afraid to smell. If you know anything about the days when Jesus walked the earth, feet were one of the dirtiest parts of a person. Cleaning someone’s feet was reserved for servants or slaves. They were not reserved for women who used their tears and their hair. A woman. An adulterous, sinful women. It was a huge social faux pas that packed a mighty spiritual punch and spoke loud and clear of the Gospel we today call Jesus.
I think of her on the floor face to face with the ripe stench of Jesus’ feet and I think of the Pharisee nearby and how his blood must have boiled at the sight of who had just entered his home unwelcome and invaded his and his guest of honor’s space. She’s on her knees in tears going close and he’s putting distance between all three of them, outraged and questioning Jesus’s identity, “If this man were a prophet…”
Oh dear Pharisee…He is more than. Sounds an awful lot like the devil in the wilderness, “If you are the Son of God.” (Matthew 4:6). Jesus must have heard, “If you are…” more times than Scriptures record and I reminded that our God-given identity is ALWAYS in question.
But SHE knew who He was. Her heart knew. She already had a mighty encounter with the living, breathing God and she would have gone lower if the dirt floor would have allowed. Her posture spoke volumes and she didn’t have to say a single word. Gratitude overflowed from her.
How many times have I felt the need to give lots of words trying to convince myself and others of MY posture?
Too many to count.
So I think:
How far into someone’s dirty stinky mess would I be willing to go?
How low would I be willing to stoop before them?
Saying things is one thing. Saying I would be the woman at Jesus feet sounds beautiful and faith-filled but doing it is another thing all together. Jesus comes to me all the time disguised as the beggar on the street, the friend with the marriage falling a part, my own family member who desperately needs my time and my attention.
How low do I go?
Truth is, sometimes I don’t. There ARE places IN people I will not venture to. It’s too hard and rough and I get too tired of the drama so I walk a block or two and don’t turn back because my judgement and fear are a thick wall that help me keep my distance.
Friends, I want to turn back. It is in my heart to do so. I want to tell the company I keep, “I got to go” as I turnaround. I want to extend my hand but sometimes my own arrogant pride and blatant stubbornness keep me planted firmly on my own path especially with those closest to me. Especially those who don’t smell of urine. Especially those who look and sound just.like.me.
If there is place in your life you won’t go and there is a person attached to your reasoning, please consider reaching out. Maybe there is good and needed excuse there is space but most times, more than not…